May 8, 2014
Public Service: Ham Volunteers Shift Gears to Handle Mountain Bike Event Emergency
The 2014 Whiskey Off-Road Mountain Bike Event on April 26 in the Prescott, Arizona, area quickly developed into a real emergency exercise for Yavapai Amateur Radio Club volunteers, who were supporting communication for the 11th annual race. Some 2000
amateur and professional mountain bike riders took part in the 50-mile event. About an hour after it began, however, temperatures dropped, and riders were confronted with a mixture of rain, high winds, sleet, and snow. As the weather worsened, some riders dropped out at the second checkpoint, returning to Prescott via a connecting road. Other riders, however, soldiered on through two more checkpoints, at which time another 50 participants quit, due to the worsening weather. Some exhibited symptoms of possible hypothermia. Event communications quickly switched into evacuation mode, and the net control station contacted all checkpoints to determine how many riders needed transportation back to Prescott.
"Net control worked with race, search-and-rescue, and other emergency personnel to coordinate transportation to evacuate these riders," Yavapai County Arizona ARES District Emergency Coordinator Lloyd Halgunseth, WA6ZZJ, explained. "Personal vehicles and a bus were used in the evacuation."
With evacuation transportation on its way, Amateur Radio volunteers and race personnel staffing checkpoints provided warm refuge in their own vehicles for those riders who were suffering the most. The race continued, and Amateur Radio and event communications were used to locate some missing riders. Once things settled down, the net shifted back into its accustomed role of gathering race updates from the checkpoints. Everyone was brought in safely, albeit a bit cold. Abandoned bikes were retrieved and returned to the event center.
Despite the challenging conditions, more than 300 cyclists completed the entire course. The weather front broke later in the morning, and the second race began around noon. Race officials shortened the second ride from a planned 25 miles to 15 miles, and it finished with no major incidents.
"During this emergency communications exercise, Amateur Radio enabled a quick response by race officials, which kept a bad situation from getting worse," Halgunseth said. "This response contributed to the overall success of this 3-day event."
Public Service: Hurricane Watch Net Seeks Net Control Operators
The Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) needs additional net control operators. Hurricane Season in the Atlantic begins June 1 and ends November 30; in the Eastern Pacific, it runs from May 15 until November 30. The Hurricane Watch Net activates on 14.325 MHz when an Atlantic Basin hurricane is within 300 miles of landfall, or at the request of the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami. HWN Manager Bobby Graves, KB5HAV, said the net has been getting everything in place for its 50th straight season, and that includes recruiting well-qualified, experienced net control operators who can effectively communicate with the hurricane-prone areas of Eastern Canada, the US East Coast, the Gulf of Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.
"We are especially looking for bilingual operators, as we recognize that some Latin American operators hesitate to check in and send reports to us, if they aren't fluent in English," Graves said. "The Hurricane Watch Net relies on volunteer operators -- our members -- who serve as our net control stations. These volunteers are hams who have above-average stations and are willing to commit their time to operating in support of the HWN's mission during net activations."
Graves conceded that net sessions can be "long, and, at times, very stressful." He noted that while the HWN primarily operates on 14.325 MHz, it is also looking for volunteers who can handle net control duties on the low end of the 40 meter phone band. "When 20 meters fades away in the evening," he said, "we lose the ability to effectively communicate with our reporting stations or the National Hurricane Center."
Net control operators must be HWN members, but radio amateurs do not need to be HWN members to participate in the net as reporting stations. HWN participants provide observed or measured weather reports, or relay assistance as required by the net control station.
Regulatory: ARRL Opposes FCC Proposal to Leave Licensed Service Users Open to Unlicensed Interference
Asserting "a substantial stake" in the outcome of the proceeding, the ARRL has commented in opposition to an FCC proposal that would leave licensed radio service users vulnerable to interference from unlicensed devices. In a docket unrelated to Amateur Radio spectrum, the Commission has indicated that it's willing to consider adding licensed Globalstar terrestrial users to the 2473-2483.5 MHz band -- already shared by licensed and unlicensed services -- with the condition that customer handset users in the new allocation accept interference from unlicensed radio services now legally operating there. The League's comments were in response to a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) in IB Docket 13-213 and RM-11685.
"This plan would for the first time create a multiple-use, radio frequency environment in which Part 15 unlicensed devices do not have to protect a licensed, allocated radio service from harmful interference," the ARRL stressed. "This is untenable as a precedent, and it makes the entirety of the [NPRM] likewise untenable."
The League said allowing Globalstar to deploy Ancillary Terrestrial Component (ATC) users of its Mobile-Satellite Service (MSS) system under technical rules that apply to unlicensed users would depart from long-standing rules protecting licensed radio services from interference resulting from the use of unlicensed Part 15 or Part 18 ISM devices.
The League said the proposal "represents an unprecedented withdrawal of the assurances that licensed users have been given by the Commission and relied upon in dozens of allocation proceedings." The League said many Commission orders "consistently embody" the principle that Part 15 device operators must cease operations that cause harmful interference.
"The Commission cannot, consistent with the entire regulatory underpinning for allowing Part 15 devices, premise an allocation decision in this case on the unique provision that a component of a licensed radio service will not be entitled to interference protection from Part 15 devices, whether those unlicensed devices are incumbent or deployed in the future in the band at issue," the League concluded.
The ARRL suggested that the FCC "do some bona fide technical evaluation" of compatibility between and among services in and below the band at question and of ATC systems before deciding whether or not the proposed overlay is compatible.
"The price of making the wrong assumptions is too high in this and similar allocations proceedings," the ARRL said, "and the damage from the wrong assumptions will be, practically speaking, impossible to reverse." Read more.
Regulatory: Canadian Radio Amateurs Gain New 472-479 kHz Band
As of May 1, radio amateurs in Canada have a new allocation at 472-479 kHz. The 7 kilohertz sliver of spectrum is available to hams there on a secondary basis. Delegates attending the 2012 World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-12) approved a secondary allocation between 472-479 kHz for the Amateur Radio Service, and telecommunications regulator Industry Canada subsequently proposed numerous revisions to its Table of Frequency Allocations, including the new MF band. Radio Amateurs of Canada (RAC) announced the band's "official implementation" on May 3.
"Canadian amateur operators have recently secured two new segments of spectrum, thanks to the very hard work of RAC volunteers," the announcement said. "The 60 meter band allocation was made official a few month ago as well."
MF and LF experimenter Joe Craig, VO1NA, "discovered" last week that the long-awaited new 630 meter band had become available, after he checked the Table of Frequency Allocations. Craig said it didn't take long for him and his wife Michelle, VO1RL, "to get our feet wet" on the new allocation. She stayed at home, while Joe tossed some gear into the car and drove to a park for their first contact on the new band (at 473 kHz on CW).
Last fall Industry Canada issued an experimental radio license to Craig's club, the Marconi Radio Club of Newfoundland (VO1MRC), endorsing experimental station VX9MRC to conduct transmissions on 472-479 kHz on December 14 and 15, to call attention to the potential new Amateur Radio band there and to the role ham radio plays in emergency communication.
The ARRL in 2012 petitioned the FCC to carve out the same band for US hams, but the Commission has not yet acted on the League's request. The ARRL-sponsored WD2XSH experimental operation in that region of the spectrum continues, with Fritz Raab, W1FR, as the coordinator. Other experimenters also operate there from time to time.
By international agreement, the maximum equivalent isotropically radiated power (EIRP) of amateur stations using 472-479 kHz may not exceed 5 W (or 1 W EIRP in some locations).
Craig believes the new band will appeal to a broader group of hams than do more-demanding LF allocations. He has predicted that transatlantic contacts, while challenging, "should be fairly common using conventional CW and digital modes." Read more.
Centennial: ARRL Centennial Convention Attracting Growing List of Vendors and Exhibitors
Convention activities begin on Thursday, July 17. The 60,000 square feet exhibit hall will be open all day Friday and Saturday, July 18 and 19, at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford, for what promises to be the largest gathering of its kind in the Northeast.
"We're very excited that so many of our QST advertisers, business partners, fellow societies, and radio clubs from around the country and the world will be coming to Connecticut for the Centennial Convention and to help the League celebrate its 100th birthday," said ARRL Business Services Manager Deb Jahnke, K1DAJ. "It's going to be quite a show!"
It's anticipated that some vendors may offer "show specials" during the 2 days the spacious exhibit hall is open. In addition, there will be two major prize drawings. The ARRL and R&L Electronics will co-sponsor a drawing for a $5000 grand prize gift certificate, and ARRL and FlexRadio will co-sponsor a drawing for a $2500 gift certificate. "The certificates will be redeemable at the co-sponsors' respective establishments," Jahnke explained.
The exhibit hall also will be the place to network with other ARRL members and friends. Conventioneers from all 50 states and more than a dozen countries have already registered. Those attending the convention also will want to visit the large ARRL exhibit area, featuring program representatives, officials, and a store full of the latest ARRL publications and membership gear.
Thousands of League members and friends are expected to gather in Hartford, ARRL's birthplace, to celebrate the organization's first 100 years of members "Advancing the Art and Science of Radio." Register now to be among them!
Centennial: ARRL to Celebrate its 100th Birthday at Dayton!
Owing perhaps to grand coincidence, the 100th birthday of the ARRL -- the actual day -- will fall on Sunday, May 18, the final day of Dayton Hamvention® 2014. On that date a century earlier, Amateur Radio pioneers Hiram Percy Maxim and Clarence Tuska, founded the American Radio Relay League. On Sunday, May 18, at 9:15 AM in Room 1 of Hara Arena, ARRL President Kay Craigie, N3KN, and Chief Executive Officer David Sumner, K1ZZ, will host a party, complete with a cake, to wish the ARRL a happy 100th birthday.
Dayton Hamvention is a Regional ARRL Centennial Event. W100AW/8 will be on the air from Hamvention as a special event station.
ARRL EXPO in the Ballarena will be the nerve center of the League's Hamvention presence, which will include booths highlighting various League activities. Visitors can pick up a free Centennial Coin, while supplies last. The ARRL Store will offer for sale various ARRL publications and all manner of gear -- don't forget ARRL Field Day supplies (T shirts, hats, mugs, posters)! Visitors who join ARRL or renew their League memberships at ARRL EXPO will receive a free gift. Join or renew for 3 years and take home a free ARRL Centennial Edition Handbook. ARRL Dayton 2014 buttons also will be available for free.
ARRL EXPO exhibits will include the ARRL Laboratory's "Get Your Handheld Radio Tested!" as well as the Youth Lounge and activities aimed especially at younger visitors. Representatives from ARRL Headquarters and many volunteers will be on hand for DXCC card checking and to answer questions about ARRL contests and awards, the Centennial QSO Party, the QSL Service, Logbook of The World, the ARRL Second Century Campaign, ham radio and Scouting, and more.
ARRL EXPO also is the place to meet and network with ARRL Field Organization volunteers from around the country. The ARRL Ohio Section will serve as the host for visitors.
The League will sponsor several forums throughout Hamvention weekend. On Friday, May 16, at 2:30 PM in Room 5, the League will present the video "ARRL at 100 -- A Century of Ham Radio." A discussion will follow about the ARRL Centennial celebration and ways hams can help to promote Amateur Radio in their communities. Attendees will receive a complimentary ARRL historical timeline. A repeat presentation will take place Saturday at 10:30 AM in Room 3.
The popular ARRL Member Forum will take place on Saturday at 1:15 PM in Room 3. ARRL Great Lakes Division Director Jim Weaver, K8JE, will moderate. National and local League officials will be on hand to discuss key areas of member interest. At more than 163,000 members, the League is the world's largest national Amateur Radio association.
The League also will sponsor two antenna-related forums on Saturday at Dayton. Starting at 9:15 AM in Room 5, The ARRL Handbook and The ARRL Antenna Book Editor Ward Silver, N0AX, will host "Getting Started with Antenna Modeling." The discussion will focus on how to use antenna modeling software to design simple antennas, based on the EZNEC antenna modeling program. Saturday afternoon at 2:30 in Room 3, Silver will present "Impedance Matching 101," an overview of impedance matching for amateur applications -- what it is, and why it's necessary.
The ARRL will be marking its Centennial throughout Hamvention weekend, too. It's a good time to learn more about the ARRL National Centennial Convention, July 17-19 in Hartford, Connecticut.
Centennial: W1AW Centennial Operations Shift States on May 14 (UTC)
The ARRL Centennial W1AW WAS operations taking place throughout 2014 from each of the 50 states will relocate at 0000 UTC on Wednesday, May 14 (the evening of May 13 in US time zones), from Nebraska (W1AW/0) to South Dakota (W1AW/0). Nebraska was the first state to repeat as a W1AW Centennial host.
There will be just one state the week of May 14-20. Utah, initially scheduled to repeat that week, will instead host W1AW the week of July 2-8. Additional schedule changes have been made, and the schedule has been updated to reflect these. During 2014 W1AW will be on the air from every state (at least twice) and most US territories.
In conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the ARRL, the ARRL Centennial QSO Party kicked off January 1 for a year-long operating event in which participants can accumulate points and win awards. The event is open to all, although only ARRL members and appointees, elected officials, HQ staff and W1AW are worth ARRL Centennial QSO Party points.
Working W1AW/x from each state is worth 5 points per mode/contact, even when working the same state during its second week of activity. To earn the "Worked all States with W1AW Award," work W1AW operating portable from all 50 states. (For award credit, participants must work W1AW/1 in Connecticut.) A W1AW WAS certificate and plaque will be available.
The ARRL has posted an ARRL Centennial QSO Party leader board that participants can use to determine how many points they have accumulated in the Centennial QSO Party and in the W1AW WAS operations. Log in using your Logbook of The World (LoTW) user name and password, and your position will appear at the top of the leader boards. Results are updated daily, based on contacts entered into LoTW.
Events: Massachusetts to Host USA ARDF Championships June 5-8
The USA ARDF (Amateur Radio Direction Finding) Championships return to the Northeast this year. ARRL ARDF Coordinator Joe Moell, K0OV, said on-foot foxhunting fans of all skill levels will gather near Boston in early June for 4 days of intense competition. Registration to participate in the event has been extended to June 1.
Activities begin on Thursday, June 5 with a 10-transmitter short-course sprint competition on 80 meters. The following day is the foxoring event, a combination of RDF and classic orienteering on 80 meters in which participants navigate to marked locations on their maps where very low-power transmitters can be found nearby. Saturday morning will be the classic full-course 2 meter main event, with five transmitters in a very large forest. The banquet and awards presentation follow that evening. A similar full-course 80 meter main event takes place Sunday morning, with awards presented afterward.
National ARDF championships typically take place in late summer or early fall. This year, though, the ARDF World Championships will take place during early September, however. To provide plenty of time for selecting Team USA members and planning overseas travel, the 2014 USA ARDF Championships must take place 3 months before.
ARDF championship rules are set by the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU). For scoring and awards, participants are divided into 11 age/gender categories. In classic ARDF championships, competitors start in small groups comprised of different categories.
The USA ARDF Championships are open to anyone who can safely navigate the woods solo. A ham radio license is not required. Each participant competes as an individual.
Stateside winners will be considered for membership in ARDF Team USA, which will travel to Kazakhstan for the 17th ARDF World Championships.
Ham Radio in Space: Tiny KickSat "Sprite" Satellites May Not Deploy
Because of a technical glitch, the KickSat CubeSat may not be able to deploy its cargo of tiny "Sprite" satellites after all, Project Manager Zac Manchester, KD2BHC, announced on May 3. The Sprites, each about
the size of a small cracker, would be the smallest satellites ever to orbit Earth. Manchester said an unexpected reset of KickSat's master clock may mean that the 3U CubeSat won't be able to release the 104 Sprite satellites before it deorbits and burns up in the atmosphere. He further explained that ground controllers can't command the Sprites to release, because the uplink radio used to trigger deployment is unable to power up until the spacecraft's batteries reach 8 V. The batteries have been "holding steady" at 6.5 V, Manchester said, and he doesn't anticipate that the voltage will increase to the required level before the satellite drops out of orbit.
"As those who've been keeping up with the telemetry data coming in from KickSat may have noticed, the packets we've been receiving have changed in the last couple of days," Manchester said. "This was due to a hard reset of the 'watchdog' microcontroller on KickSat -- the sort of 'reptile brain' of the satellite that manages turning on and off the rest of the subsystems and keeps the master clock."
Manchester, a Cornell graduate student in aerospace engineering, believes the culprit is radiation, rather than power issues. The reset restarted the Sprite deployment countdown at 16 days, pushing it out to May 16. Manchester said it looks like KickSat will lose orbit before then, although he held out a slim possibility that it could stay up that long.
"We've spent the last couple of days here at Cornell trying to think of every possible contingency, but it seems there aren't very many options right now," he said. "While the situation looks a little bleak, there is still some hope that the batteries may recharge sufficiently to command the satellite. There is also a small chance that KickSat could remain in orbit until May 16, at which point the timer would set off the deployment as originally planned."
Manchester said the KickSat team will continue tracking the satellite over the next few days -- "with the help of the ham community" -- tracking its battery voltage and the Sprite deployment status. "Thank you again for your support," he added. "I promise that this won't be the end of the KickSat project." Read more.
Milestones: Past SCM, DXer, Propagation Forecaster Lee Wical, KH6BZF, SK
Lee C. Wical, KH6BZF, of Kaneohe, Hawaii, died May 2 after a period of declining health. He was 79 and had not been active on the air in recent years. Growing up in Ohio, Wical became interested in radio after getting an old Atwater Kent from his grandfather in 1938, becoming a BCL and, later, an SWL. His uncle and a cousin both were hams. Early on he aspired to become a minor league baseball player, but he opted eventually for a career in electrical engineering.
Wical said on his QRZ.com page that he learned Morse code while in the Boy Scouts, and that his knowledge of the code attracted the interest of the US Army Signal Corps when he was in the service during the Korean Conflict. He got his Novice ticket in 1955 while in Hawaii and almost immediately became interested into DXing.
While attending college on the GI Bill, he got his first class FCC Radiotelephone License and went to work for broadcast stations in Ohio. After graduation he moved to Hawaii and was employed in various engineering positions before signing on with the federal government for 36 years. Following that, he resumed his career at AT&T and Lucent Technologies, working around the world before finally retiring in 1997.
From1962 until 1972, Wical served as ARRL Section Communications Manager (now SM) for Hawaii. He also was a state MARS director. Wical was an ARRL VEC and W5YI volunteer examiner "to put something back into radio, which gave me a great vocation and a great hobby," as he explained. He was an ARRL Charter Life Member as well as a life member of the QCWA and of AMSAT. He was a charter member and co-founder of the Honolulu DX Club and on the club's Board of Directors.
Wical had attained the ARRL DXCC Honor Roll with 358 entities confirmed. He belonged to the A-1 Operators Club and ARRL's Old Timer's Club. He edited and published the "KH6BZF Reports" HF propagation forecast and occasionally prepared the ARRL Propagation Bulletin for W1AW.
Feature: A Century of Amateur Radio and the ARRL
I've always enjoyed reading about the history of Amateur Radio, ever since I was first licensed as a Novice in 1952. Up to this point in this series, I've recounted events I'd only read or heard about from the old timers of my youth. From now on, I'll be reporting about the exciting times I lived through as a young ham and, later, as an old timer.
During World War II, manufacturing processes were developed to inexpensively manufacture flexible coaxial cable. Thousands of miles of coaxial cable showed up on the military surplus market after the war, and hams fell into the then-new habit of using coax to feed their antennas. With the advent of TV, inexpensive 300 W "twin lead" became common, and hams also used that for feed line. But TV's arrival certainly had a darker side for Amateur Radio -- television interference (TVI)!
Much early TV broadcasting was on the lower VHF channels -- low enough in frequency to be affected by harmonics (and other radiation) from HF ham transmitters, in addition to fundamental overload of the TV's front end by a strong ham signal. The 15 meter amateur band opened in May 1952, and some early TV receivers used a 21 MHz IF!
Although most TVI problems were a result of poor interference rejection of the TV receivers, all the neighbor knew was that we hams were ruining his newfound, precious entertainment medium, for which he had paid big bucks.
Phil Rand, W1DBM, worked with the ARRL to develop TVI-reduction techniques and methods, and he authored many QST articles on the subject during the 1950s. As part of the League's efforts to help hams reduce TVI, ARRL staff member Lew McCoy, W1ICP, took his "TVI show" on the road to ham clubs and community meetings around the country, explaining and demonstrating the problem and showing how hams could reduce their neighbors' -- and perhaps their own -- TVI. It was a long time before this problem was under control, but the League's efforts were a major factor in turning the tide.
Next week: What is this thing called "single sideband?" -- Al Brogdon, W1AB
The K7RA Solar Update
Tad Cook, K7RA, Seattle, reports: We saw an uptick in solar indices this week (May 1-7) compared to the previous 7 days, with average daily sunspot number rising from 73.4 to 118.4, and average daily solar flux up 13 to 135.6. The most active geomagnetic days were May 4-5, with planetary A index at a moderate 16 and 10, mid-latitude A indices of 15 and 11, and the high latitude college A index (measured at Fairbanks, Alaska) at 25 and 10.
Predicted solar flux for the near term is 145 for May 8-9, 150 for May 10-12, 145 for May 13-15, 140 for May 16-17, 135 onr May 18, 130 for May 19-20, 125 on May 21, and 120 for May 22-26.
The near-term peak of 184 on June 9 disappeared from the daily 45-day outlook on May 5. The predicted solar flux for that date was 155 in the April 25-27 forecasts, jumped to 184 from April 28 through May 4, and was down to 131 in the May 5-7 forecasts.
Predicted planetary A index is 8 for May 8-9, then 12, 10, 8, and 5 for May 10-13, 8 for May 14-15, 5 for May 16-20, then 10 and 8 for May 21-22, 5 for May 23-30, then 8 for May 31 through June 1, 12 on June 2, 8 for June 3-4, and 12 on June 5-6.
At 0538 UTC on May 8 the Australian Space Forecast Centre issued a geomagnetic warning. Increased geomagnetic activity is expected for the rest of May 8 due to a coronal mass ejection.
Currently a spate of new sunspot groups are appearing around our Sun's eastern horizon. This is good news for HF propagation. You can track the progress of emerging sunspots via the STEREO satellites.
HF conditions are good right now, especially when compared to earlier points in this weak current solar cycle. We appear to be at a second or third peak in Cycle 24 activity, with no certainty as to how long this will last.
This weekly "Solar Update" in The ARRL Letter is a preview of the "Propagation Bulletin" issued each Friday. The latest bulletin and an archive of past propagation bulletins is on the ARRL website.
In tomorrow's bulletin look for an updated forecast and reports from readers, as well as a new tool recommended by Jim Henderson, KF7E.
Send me your reports and observations.
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